Dementia affects just under half a million Australians, according to Dementia Australia. This condition more commonly affects those in the elderly age bracket, and as such, many tend to rely on the support of medical professionals in aged care facilities. Unfortunately, this vulnerable group of people are sometimes subjected to abuse by those who have a duty of care to protect them from harm. Dementia Australia estimates that anywhere between 2 and 10 per cent of older Australians experience abuse in any given year in these facilities.
This was recently exposed in a case that highlighted how a aged care worker had assaulted various residents at one NSW care home.
What was the background of the case?
The worker in question was a 48-year old woman from the Wollongong region who allegedly assaulted five different residents staying at the aged care centre where she worked. It was reported that all five incidents shared similar themes of striking. To make matters worse, all victims were living with dementia.
Dementia patients are known to experience various forms of cognitive impairment, including mental decline, memory loss, inability to speak or understand language and disorientation. For these reasons, this group of people are extremely vulnerable and are at a heightened risk of abuse as they may not be able to recall or even report their trauma.
In regards to the attacks that took place at the NSW aged care facility, acting CEO Craig Smith told media that none of the residents were seriously hurt.
"There weren't any long-term injuries – more immediately consoling the residents involved", said Smith.
"It's a distressing thing for any staff or residents to be involved in abuse."
What happened following the incidents?
Staff members reported the allegations to management in December and in the following weeks, the worker in question was arrested. Mr Smith noted that all staff within the centre were obliged to undergo rigorous training to ensure they fully understood how to identify excessive force.
"All our staff are subject to criminal history checks, and undertake a 12-monthly elder protection training program to make sure they are aware of what is required in terms of the law."
The investigation is still ongoing which will reportedly allow the alleged worker to respond to her charges.
If you believe a loved one is suffering medical negligence as a result of aged care abuse, take the correct steps and seek legal advice. Get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners today to see how we can help.